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Feb take-off, with snacks and a surprise
- Calcutta on air one map

Bangalore, Jan. 13: By mid-February, another new airline will take to the skies.

Bangalore-based Air One is firming up plans to fly the non-metro routes. The airline has the status of a non-scheduled operator and is starting with one 49-seater Embraer ERJ 145, which will be followed by another a month later.

Air One managing director J.W. Lobo told The Telegraph that the airline plans to operate on routes scheduled operators normally avoid.

“The aircraft will have an all-economy seating and ticket sales will be only through the Net. The tickets are priced competitively and will be a surprise,’’ Lobo said, adding that comfort and safety would be top priority.

Not a low-cost airline per se, it intends to provide snacks on board.

“There is a huge demand to connect secondary cities. Ours will be a combination of regional and metro routes,” said Lobo.

The airline plans to make its presence felt in all the sectors, including the east and the Northeast, he added. “We are planning to connect Calcutta with Pune and Bangalore. But this route will have to wait for another month as it will be serviced by our second aircraft.’’

Lobo said the start-up was busy conforming to regulations and is all set for a mid-February take-off. The ground staff, engineering crew and airhostesses have completed their training. The company is starting with an equity base of Rs 33 crore.

“We have already received confirmation for slots at Guwahati, Pune, Bangalore and Mangalore. We have booked counters, too, and in Bangalore we have tied up with HAL for a hangar.”

This is the first time that the Brazilian Embraer is entering the commercial aviation sector in India with its two-plus-one seating variant.

Lobo said the first two aircraft are three years old and are being operated by Swiss Air and Air France.

For maintenance, Air One has tied up with Embraer for the airframe while the engines will be serviced by Rolls Royce engineers stationed at its hub.

The airline was scheduled to start by August but procedural delays and documentation took time. It is being promoted by investors from Bangalore and managed and operated by qualified aviation hands who retired from Indian Airlines.

The airline intends to scale up and by 2006-end, it will have a family of five aircraft.

The only cause for concern, Lobo said, is the rising prices of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) which is affecting not just the bottomlines of scheduled airlines but also operating costs.

“In some states, there is no sales tax on ATF while in others they charge up to 4 per cent for regional turbo-prop operators. As Embraers are jets, we have written to various state governments to exempt sales tax for our fleet, too.’’

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